The Party of Three Sides
I had been looking forward to Helen’s party for a couple of weeks, really since I had been invited. I liked Helen and had heard from various different people that her parties always threw up plenty to talk about. However, my main reason for looking forward to going was that Helen had dropped into conversation that Diane would be there.
I had spoken to Diane a few times since meeting her at an art class we both took at the local library. Typical of me really but I hadn’t noticed her until the last class in the course. We sat next to each other at the last class and got talking. It turned out that we shared an interest in pottery as she collected and I used to make. I assured her that my efforts hadn’t been worth collecting but it had been fun while I did it. I saw her a couple of times in town after that but she lived a little way out and only came in to the centre when she had a specific reason. The party would be a great opportunity to get to know her better.
It would appear there is no fool like an old fool. As everyone said, Helen’s party was great. There was a real mix of people and some lively conversation. It was just a shame that I wasn’t involved in any of it. I arrived a little late as the taxi I ordered didn’t turn up and, after phoning four other companies, all telling me it would be at least an hour’s wait, I decided to drive. When I got there the party was in full swing. I saw Diane after a few minutes but she was deep in conversation with a tall fellow over by the buffet table. She seemed to be getting on very well with him and I didn’t want to interrupt.
Instead I joined a group of four chaps talking about cricket despite me not following the game. I was able to nod in the right places without contributing much to the conversation over and above agreeing that the Aussies could do with being brought down a peg or two. After a while of this I decided to get some food, dropping in on the toilet on the way. I was surprised that when I picked up a plate and got a little way down the buffet table I saw Diane now talking with the four men I had left a few minutes ago. Again she seemed deep in conversation and loving the company.
It became painfully clear that I had misread the signs from Diane. I had enjoyed talking to her at the art class but maybe she hadn’t. I liked when we had a coffee when we bumped in to each other in town but perhaps she had seen it was a chore. I had come to the party with anticipation to getting to know her better, but it appeared she already knew a number of men very well. As I was staring at her and noting the disappointment I didn’t realise that I had stopped moving down the table. The lady next to me gave a little cough and made a comment about me being indecisive about the sausage rolls or the mini-pasties.
It turned out her name was Yvonne and we talked for a while as we ate our plates of food. Yvonne was a dance instructor at the leisure centre and was very keen to tell me all about that, her husband and her two children. However, as I didn’t know many other people at the party, and it was clear the one person I did want to speak to wasn’t bothered to speak to me, I was happy enough to let her talk at me.
Part way through the conversation though she got a call on her mobile, apologised and quickly took the call. It had been obvious that it wasn’t a nice call and Yvonne’s eyes had welled up immediately and she looked panicky. Her youngest child, her daughter, had fallen down the stairs and her husband was calling to say he was taking her to A&E. He was sure there was nothing to worry about, but Yvonne worried just the same. So, with no reason to stay, I offered to give Yvonne a lift to A&E. She accepted and I put my arm around her shoulder to comfort her as we left in a hurry.
For once I had been looking forward to one of Helen’s parties. I had been invited a number of times and attended three of four. Everyone else seemed to rave about them but I only ever saw the same handful of people having a riotous time while a collection of others stood around the edges. On this occasion Helen had let me know that Matthew was invited too. I had seen him at our art class and felt he looked not unlike a slightly more modern Tony Martin. I didn’t pay him much mind after about the third week as he hadn’t seemed to notice me and preferred to talk to some of the younger class members. In the very last week though I saw that he chose the chair next to me and we had a lovely conversation while studying our still life. I made up some nonsense about collecting pottery and got a little scared when it turned out that he used to make some. It was OK though as he didn’t push me on favourite pieces.
So, I had been looking to a party for the first time in a long time. As it turned out I needn’t have bothered. When I arrived I asked Helen if Matthew was there, perhaps giving away too much of my main motive for attending, but Helen said that he was nowhere to be seen. In fact, when I finally saw him arrive it was about an hour after everyone else had got there and I was stuck with Ian Burton who is so tall I need to crane my neck to listen to him and so dull the only way to cope with him is to smile politely and drift off in to thinking about something completely different. To this day he has never noticed that people do that to him.
I had seen that Matthew had joined up with a group including the frankly nasty Frank Henry. He was sure to be boring everyone about the Australian cricket team despite them already having been beaten heavily by England several times in the last few years. However, determined to talk to Matthew I managed to finally prise myself away from Ian by pretty much just walking away backwards while still smiling until I was out of earshot. I was amazed to see that, as I arrived, Matthew walked away. I stared at his back as he went into the next room. When I turned back Frank was already gawping at me in his hideous way and the three others continued to defer to his opinions on cricket and politics.
I was stuck with them for what seemed like an age as they kept asking me if I agreed with whatever nonsense had just been stated as fact. They leaned in towards me as though they hadn’t spoken to a woman in years. Now, I can like the attention of men, it can be an enjoyable boost to one’s self confidence but attention from these four, especially Frank, was no boost to anyone.
I peeled myself away from the group of men and went to find Helen. As I stood and talked to her I noticed over her shoulder that Matthew was now at the buffet table talking, and laughing, with a lady I hadn’t seen before. When I asked Helen who she was I was surprised to hear that she was dance instructor who was new to the town. I had been stuck right next to the buffet table for seemed like an eternity with the dullest man on earth, and Matthew didn’t seem in the least peckish. Yet, the second I left he made a beeline for the food, ignoring me in the process.
It was painfully clear that I had got the wrong end of the stick. I had been foolish to have been looking forward to the party and the chance of having a long conversation with Matthew. I had liked seeing him from afar that the art class, and liked it even more when we chatted on the last day. Then we had bumped into each other in town and even had a coffee once when we both had a spare half an hour. I am now aware though that Matthew had just been polite. Perhaps he wasn’t even the type of man I had thought he was. It turned out he was more likely to want to talk to Frank Henry or dance instructors than me. He probably found the last day of the art class a complete bore.
My terrible night had been completed when I saw Matthew and the dance instructor leave together and he had his arm draped over her shoulder. It hadn’t even been that late. I was sure Helen said she was married and had children. I had completely misjudged the type of man Matthew was and was now glad I hadn’t had that chance to get to know him better.
It had been overdue another one of my parties. Quite frankly I had grown weary of them but people seemed to like them and I was worn down but the constant enquiries. It seemed to me that it was the same people over and again and I was desperate to get new blood to generate some interesting conversation. I had asked Diane to several parties but she only came to a few. She had mentioned Matthew a few times and I knew that if I asked him she would come and we would have at least two interesting people.
Sure enough, on her arrival she immediately asked after Matthew. She didn’t seem to react when I said he hadn’t arrived and she went off to grab some food and talked to Ian. When Matthew did arrive he said something about taxis and cars and then joined the loudest group of men, led by Frank, in discussing cricket and the Australians.
Later on in the evening I noticed that they had very deliberately swapped places. Matthew had moved to the food table and Diane was flirting with Frank’s group. Although not really any of my business, I was a bit disappointed in myself that I had so missed the mark. I had high hopes of a match-making success but must have missed some terrible row between the two of them. Both was ignoring the other equally strongly.
The evening was topped off when Diane came and found me. We chatted for a bit until she asked who Matthew was talking to. I reassured her that Yvonne was happily married with two children. However, at this news Diane made a kind of scoffing noise and the matter dropped. I never asked what the row had been about, like I said, it wasn’t any of my business. Diane did seem a little shocked when Matthew and Yvonne left together, especially so early on in the evening.
Yvonne phoned the next day to apologise for leaving without saying goodbye. She explained that her daughter had fallen down the stairs but received the all clear soon after Matthew dropped her at A&E. Yvonne said she felt guilty about dragging Matthew away from the party as he seemed very keen on gazing at another lady.
I decided not to tell Diane, as it was none of my business.